Justice and Home Affairs – 10-02-2010
Victims of human trafficking, especially women and children, should receive protection and “unconditional” assistance, demanded the EP in a resolution adopted on Wednesday. The victims should be entitled to free legal aid, the penalties for traffickers should be rethought and ways must be found to discourage demand for services supplied by the victims, say MEPs.
The fight against trafficking in human beings must stay high on the EU agenda during times of economic and financial crisis, stresses the resolution. According to Europol’s assessment for 2009, trafficking of women for sexual exploitation has not decreased and trafficking for forced labour is increasing.
Trafficking takes many forms. It is linked to sexual exploitation, forced labour, the illegal trade in human organs, begging, illegal adoptions and domestic work. Of the identified victims of trafficking, 79% are women and girls.
Further EU action in this field should focus on the protection of victims, say MEPs, by ensuring that assistance to victims is “unconditional”, that a victim’s consent to exploitation is always deemed irrelevant and that victims are entitled to assistance irrespective of their willingness to cooperate in criminal proceedings.
According to the EP, victims should receive all possible help from the moment they are identified as such, including access to at least a temporary residence permit, irrespective of their willingness to cooperate in criminal proceedings, and simplified access to the labour market, including the provision of training and other forms of upskilling. The EP also asks for a simplified family reunification policy for victims, particularly where this is required for their protection, access to appropriate secure accommodation, including the provision of a food/subsistence allowance, to emergency medical treatment, to counselling services, translation and interpretation where appropriate, help contacting family and friends, and access to education for children.
Free legal aid should also be given to the victims, which “is essential to enable them to escape the situation of coercion in which they find themselves, bearing in mind that they lack financial means and would thus be unable to pay for such assistance”.
Further prevention and action could also focus on the users of services supplied by trafficked people. MEPs call for massive awareness-raising campaigns targeting both potential victims of trafficking and potential buyers of services from trafficked persons.
The EP calls on Frontex and national border-control agencies, in the course of their activities, to define common practices in order to raise staff awareness of the issue of trafficking and to identify victims of trafficking and ensure their protection.
The Treaty of Lisbon strengthens EU action in the field of judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters, including in combating trafficking in human beings, and Parliament, as co-legislator, will have a full role to play here.
The resolution by the groups S&D, ALDE, Greens/ALE and GUE/NGL was adopted by a show of hands.